Area youth rocket skyward at Ivy Tech Valparaiso’s Adventures in Manufacturing STEM Camp

Area youth rocket skyward at Ivy Tech Valparaiso’s Adventures in Manufacturing STEM Camp

Participants watched their creations take to the sky Friday afternoon, during the climax of Ivy Tech Community College of Valparaiso’s Adventures in Manufacturing STEM Camp.

Students in grades 8-12 from around the Region took part in the camp which offered hands-on learning with CNC milling machines and electronics. Every activity brought them closer to completing their very own rocket and launch controller. The camp, organized by Ivy Tech Instructor Don Baker, aimed to teach kids about Machine Tool Technology and excite them about careers in industry.

“It’s important to show youngsters just what they can do if they apply themselves,” Baker said. “They may not realize that they have the means and potential to build a rocket launcher like this, or to solder together a circuit that can launch a rocket.”

Baker mentioned that Indiana is the country’s number two manufacturing state and hoped that the camp spurred the kids’ interest in pursuing work in the field.

Matthew Case, a student at Michigan City High School, was already a rocket enthusiast before he signed up for the class. He even brought a second homemade rocket to the launch day. Seeing Ivy Tech’s facilities, CNC machines, and working with others was an eye-opening experience for the budding machinist.

STEM Rocket Launch 2019

STEM Rocket Launch 2019 24 Photos
STEM Rocket Launch 2019STEM Rocket Launch 2019STEM Rocket Launch 2019STEM Rocket Launch 2019

“It was a unique experience for me,” Case said. “Here I am today, launching a rocket. One day, I’d like to be a CNC set-up technician.”

Case’s rocket achieved the highest altitude among the day’s participants. As the wind grabbed it, he chased it down before it fell near the neighboring airport. When he returned with the spent rocket, all he could talk about was going again.

“The impact of this event is significant,” said Suzan Perry, Dean of the School of Advanced Manufacturing, Engineering, and Applied Science at Ivy Tech Valparaiso. “It’s significant for Ivy Tech, it’s significant for the community, and it’s significant for the youths of our community.

“So many of them don’t even know that options like this exist or that there are opportunities for careers in these fields,” Perry continued. “They learned so many different skills in the course of this project. What I just saw from these students looks so professional.”

Aco Sikoski, Chancellor of Ivy Tech Community College of Valparaiso, joined the group on the field as the rockets took flight.

“It’s so exciting to see these kids get engaged with making and manufacturing these products,” Sikoski said. “When they get to see this final result, that’s exciting for all of us.”

He encouraged parents and students to visit Ivy Tech together and take advantage of other available programs.

“We’re hosting a number of camps throughout the summer—we want to engage these young students so they can see the value of careers and what they can learn,” he said.

To learn more about Ivy Tech Valparaiso and other upcoming events, visit